I will fully admit that I had to close my eyes several times during The Bourne Ultimatum. Not because of graphic violence. Not because I feared I’d be unable to control myself in the face of Matt Damon’s rugged handsomeness. Not even because I reasoned that, if Julia Stiles was going to be rendered mute, perhaps I should render myself blind out of solidarity. Nope, as with The Bourne Supremacy, I averted my eyes because director Paul Greengrass insisted on shooting the entire film in such a frenetic, kinetic, hand-held way that the unrelenting shaking of the camera can actually induce nausea if not tempered with, you know, closed eyes.
All that said, I very much enjoyed this third Bourne installment, mainly because it sticks to a very clean, simple plot—rogue agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) hunts for the man (Albert Finney) holding the key to his past—and crams it to the rafters with action and mind-boggling stunt choreography. Criss-crossing the globe and featuring shot-on-location set-piece sequences in London, Turin, Tangiers and New York City, the story follows Bourne from city to city as he flees bad guys and assorted attempts on his life. He’s a marked man thanks to chilly CIA black-ops chief Noah Vosen (David Strathairn, in a deliciously unlikable turn), who’d rather have Bourne killed than risk some of the agency’s darkest secrets being exposed.
Helping Bourne in his cross-continental fight for freedom is Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), whose past relationship with Bourne (pre-identity erasure) is hinted at but never explained. (Plus, as my friend Heather pointed out, Stiles actually ceases to have dialogue about 2/3 of the way through the film and literally says nothing for the remainder of her time onscreen. It was freaky!) Also working to save Bourne instead of slaughter him is CIA honcho Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), who maintains a simultaneously maternal and flirtatious phone “relationship” with the man the CIA is targeting for elimination.
The motto for the filmmakers seems to have been “GO! GO! GO!” because, as mentioned, the action never ceases long enough for Bourne or the audience to catch their collective breath. Dazzling is the best word to describe the acrobatics that happen in front of and behind the camera—the stunts are just as impressive as the camerawork and the editing—and everyone has settled nicely into his or her characters. The storytelling is tidy and concise; no extraneous plots or pointless deviations from Bourne’s mission. And the country to country travels make for an interesting mini-travelogue as the story unfolds.
Now, if only someone would buy Greengrass a tripod, I’d be all set for Bourne #4.